“The Fabelmans” is directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Michelle Williams (Venom, My Week with Marilyn), Paul Dano (The Batman, Love & Mercy), Seth Rogen (Neighbors, The Guilt Trip), Gabriel LaBelle (Love Shack, The Predator), and Judd Hirsch (Independence Day, Dear John). This film is slightly based on Steven Spielberg’s adolescence and is about a young boy who uses the power of movies to navigate himself through the ups and downs of life.
I love movies. Obviously, as someone who has written movie reviews for several years, this should not come as a surprise. But I love the process that goes into making them, the marketing, the theatrical experiences, the stories, the fandoms, the lessons we take away. Everything. I love movies. I love cinema. I love everything about it. When I hear Steven Spielberg is making a film, of course I have to pay attention just because his name is attached. But when I hear he is making a film that somewhat has to do with his passion for movies, I am all ears. It is the classic saying, write what you know. If there is anybody on this planet who knows movies, it is the guy who made “Jaws.” It is the guy who made “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” It is the guy who made “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” It is the guy who made “The Post” and “Ready Player One” within months of each other. Safe to say, I was looking forward to this movie where we kind of get a semi-autobiographical tale on Steven Spielberg’s end.
“The Fabelmans” is a spectacular movie in every way. But should I really be surprised? Heck no.
Hollywood has a tendency to create self-indulgent stories where the script highlights the spotlight of the industry. Films like “La La Land” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” have done this with excellence for different reasons. Given the context of the story and what it is about, this is not a movie where Hollywood celebrates Hollywood and instead, gives more of a shoutout to people who are just learning filmmaking or are perhaps working in smaller conditions, limited crews, or tinier budgets. Of course, as someone who has spent his years making productions since high school either for educational, fun, or work purposes, I can say that my experience must have been a lot different than Spielberg’s, and therefore, different than this film’s main character of Sammy Fabelman. Watching this movie made me realize how much easier I have it now with digital technology and editing tools that I did not have to buy a separate space-consuming machine for. Well, apart from the monthly subscription I have to give to Adobe, I realize how much easier I have it.
Above all, this movie is about dreams. Steven Spielberg has obviously accomplished his dream of making films, and he is one of the best to ever do it. Therefore it makes sense that Sammy spends the entire movie hoping to do the same thing. We see him watching movies, making films with his friends, and showing his work off to others. That is all part of the dream. We see Mitzi, played by Michelle Williams, show off some artistic talents of her own with the piano. While she still plays it as a hobby, we come to learn that maybe she could have done something more with it. The one in the family whose dreams are supposedly realized are those of Sammy’s father, Burt, played by Paul Dano. As the movie progresses, we see him talking about his job, moving to a bigger company, and he has found his place in STEM. I think STEM is important, and even though this movie is about an aspiring artist, one of the best things about it is that it does not necessarily come off as propaganda to disregard or ignore STEM. I say this as someone who wants to spend his life in the arts himself. What I took from “The Fabelmans” is that if you have a dream, you would be a fool not to see it all the way through. Unfortunately, sometimes the dreams of others can interfere with dreams of your own.
Apart from this, kind of like some other standout movies this year such as “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “The Fabelmans” is a win because it has everything in it. Drama. Comedy. Even a little action. Like those two films, “The Fabelmans” does not just check those boxes just to give something for everyone. It is giving something that the audience will be able to take away with them. I walked out of “The Fabelmans” with a dash of happiness because I got to spend two and a half hours feeling every emotion possible.
Spielberg is a name that is taken seriously nowadays, so you must be thinking, “‘The Fabelmans’ is perfect. Right?” I would not jump to that conclusion. As much as I enjoyed the movie, there were certain scenes that felt a bit extravagant or over the top for a story that mainly centers a round a family like this one. While this is a semi-autobiographical movie about a young boy growing up in a Jewish family, there is one aspect of the film, specifically the character of Monica (Chloe East), that felt like a poppy guest character in a sitcom. Monica is a Christian. She is also obsessed with Jesus, it is practically her defining character trait. I think people can be crazy fanatical over anyone, but the way her character was written and executed in this movie felt less down to earth than some of the movie’s other scenes. If Spielberg ever reflects on this movie and the character of Monica, and I find out she is based on someone he actually knew, my thoughts on this aspect of the film could possibly change. But in a film that stays in a lane between drama and comedy, this felt overly goofy.
For those of you who know me outside of Scene Before, you would know that I have a YouTube channel. One of the things I used to do on it for fun was record my trips on various elevators. I would take a small camera or a phone, go up, go down, maybe repeat the process to a varying degree. When I was visiting a particular elevator at a Macy’s one time with a friend, I ran into a mother and her son. The mother saw what I was doing and got super excited because she and her son apparently knew about these videos and watched them in the past. I do not do these videos anymore due to a lack of interest. You may wonder, why on earth would I be telling you this? It is because this movie reinforces why I did those videos and the backbone behind why I kept making content over time, even if they do not have elevators in them. I did it to entertain people. I did it so people can have an experience. I did it so people can be happy. Of course, like Sammy, I make art as a passion. To me, it is not a hobby, it is a lifestyle. But at the end of the day, art is all the more rewarding when you have people you can share it with. Even “Morbius,” as much as I hated that movie, generated a reaction out of me. The people who made that movie, regardless of how little or how much collective passion was put into it, had an end goal to get an audience’s attention. As for the audience themselves, it is up to them to decide whether “Morbius” did an excellent job at accomplishing its goals. I cannot say it did, but someone else on this planet might beg to differ. “The Fabelmans” starts with Mitzi telling young Sammy, “movies are dreams that you never forget.” “The Fabelmans” reminded me of my dreams and made me want to pursue them even more.
Time will tell how much this movie will hold up. Although if Spielberg’s track record shows anything, the likelihood of “The Fabelmans” holding up seems high. I do not say this a lot, and while “The Fabelmans” is not my favorite movie of the year, I think that this is a film I need right now. There is a moment towards the final 10 to 20 minutes where I saw myself in Sammy. Especially as a recent college grad. I think if even if you are not trying to pursue film, you will relate to Sammy in this moment. As someone who is, I would give the moment bonus points if possible. “The Fabelmans” reminds me of why I do what I do. Why I make videos, why I write, why I blog. I do it for you. At the end of the day, I am sometimes the one who calls the shots as to how something gets done or I make a decision that impacts an outcome. But all of that is for the audience to enjoy, or despise because art is subjective, and for people to think about amongst themselves. We all have a story, but it means more when there is an audience to take it all in. If the audience I sat alongside for “The Fabelmans” suggests anything, Spielberg made a story that gets their approval.
In the end, “The Fabelmans” is cinematic bliss. If you are still with family at the moment and need something to do, I implore you to get together, go to the cinema, and watch “The Fabelmans.” It is a movie that not only has something for everyone, but it is a story that delivers some of the best examples of those somethings. This year for movies, if you want me to be honest, while it has standouts, did not have many of them thus far compared to other years. “The Fabelmans” is one of standouts that I will carry with me to the end of the year where it is probably going to get a spot on my annual top 10s. This is a film that I would imagine is going to inspire young filmmakers, not to mention anyone who simply has a dream. Possibly those who have yet to find that dream, and it may come with this film. I am happy to say “The Fabelmans” is one of the best movies of 2022, and I am going to give it a 9/10.
Last but not least, this movie unsurprisingly once again proves that Steven Spielberg may be the GOAT of filmmaking. Meanwhile, I would suggest that it also supports the notion that John Williams may be the GOAT of film scoring. The music in this film, like a lot of movies he worked on, stands out. I cannot wait to listen to it in my own time.
“The Fabelmans” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see more of my reviews on Steven Spielberg films, I want to remind you that I just recently did a Steven Spielberg Month on Scene Before! Last October, I reviewed “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “The Post,” and “West Side Story.” Check out those reviews if you have a chance! Also, coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” The film is in theaters for one week, and hits Netflix on December 23rd. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Fabelmans?” What did you think about it? Or, which story inspired by glimmers of the director’s childhood is the superior film? “The Fabelmans?” or “Belfast?” Make your choices in the comments! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!